Letters

 
Published: Friday 10 July 2015

Scandal in the parks

It is disgraceful that our national parks, the so-called wildlife havens, are turning into killing fields. The poaching of elephants for their tusks is continuing unabated ('Savage harvest', Down To Earth , Vol 9, No 20; March 15). This, despite the fact that the park has been closed to the public. Surely, without the connivance of some park officials, the poachers could not have managed to kill so many elephants. Revamping the park management should be the priority of the new Uttaranchal government. It is time the wildlife parks are managed more professionally by inducting qualified persons who are committed to wildlife protection, too. Funds should be provided for equipping them with the latest weaponry, vehicles and communication facilities. They should be one step ahead of the poachers. The villagers surrounding the park can be the first line of defence, provided they are also involved in wildlife protection....

Seeking a platform

I was a participant in the Paani Yatra (February 23-28) organised by the Centre for Science and Environment (cse). The diverse composition of the group that joined the yatra as wellas their commitment to environmental matters propels me suggest a Down To Earth (dte) club in cities that have 10 or more individual subscribers of dte . Many of us want to contribute something meaningful towards the development of local communities, but lack a platform. The dte club could provide that platform. cse has a nationwide as well as global recognition to start this movement. Even if these clubs remain only talk shops initially, they would be a platform to exchange ideas on environmental issues....

The editor replies

Your suggestion is an excellent one. Do you have any ideas on what these clubs can do and what kind of demand they would make on cse , so we can be well prepared for this kind of activity. Since dte has a large number of readers spread across the country -- all the way from Kasaragod in Kerala to Ukhrul in Manipur -- and also because we have very serious readers, it is important that we involve the people in environmental action and, indeed, I have repeatedly found that is what our readers want to do. We need to think through the logistics so that we can do a good job of it....

Endosulfan tragedy

It is an irony that a private doctor, a farmer-journalist and a few school teachers -- who were not directly affected -- had to take up the cause of the hapless people of Padre village in Kerala afflicted allegedly by the aerial spraying of endosulfan in Plantation Corporation of Kerala's (pck) estates, ('Children of endosulfan', Down To Earth , Vol 9, No 19; February 28). The district collector, who is paid and maintained by the public exchequer for public service, should have taken the lead. Unfortunately, he chose to take up an altogether different stand. Perhaps there is nothing unusual in his thoughts and behaviour, if one remembers the contempt with which public servants and bureaucrats tackle public problems. The approach of the officials of pck , a public sector undertaking, is also reprehensible.

These gentlemen should be sent for a short-term training course on people-friendly public administration to change their mindsets, which smack of those in the colonial days.

The moment a doubt was raised by the local people, pck should have suspended endosulfan spraying and asked its supplier to provide proof about its safety. It is possible that pck officials attach more importance to cashew trees than human beings? What happens if the cashew trees flower, but the people perish? Obviously, they lacked proper sense of purpose and direction.

It is surprising that on such a vital issue, the interests of the people and authorities are perceived to be conflicting. The fact of the matter is that more than the people, it is the officials who should display concern over the matter and take remedial measures to allay the fears of the people, if they are unfounded. It is their duty, their responsibility....

Herbal destiny

dte has exposed many facts about medicinal herbs in 'Open to plunder' (Vol 9, No 17; January 31). Unless proper steps are taken to identify and cultivate medicinal herbs, the future of the Indian systems of medicine will be in jeopardy. At present, India's herbal and medicinal wealth are being subjected to large-scale plunder. But in the end, the smuggled herbs end up as nothing but 'green manure', totally unfit for consumption. Those who practice ayurveda , Unani or other traditional Indian systems of medicine (ism), sell by playing on the psyche of the people. They are treated with rotten herbs, infested with fungi and parasites.

In most places where ism is practiced, it is not difficult to find practitioners' courtyards littered with herbs or lying discarded in rotten gunny bags. These are herbs collected from anywhere, by any means and by paying any amount of money. The ethics of treating herbs like a living being is lost. Unfortunately, despite denuding our natural flora and fauna, it is not helping people in need.

A good way of ensuring the survival of traditional systems of medicine as well as the ecology would be to work in tandem with institutes like the Lucknow-based National Botanical Research Institute and Central Institute of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants in organic cultivation, identification of medicinal plants and also their commercialisation. We also need to fix standards on herbal products. A holistic approach to ism is the need of the hour....

More on herbs

While reading 'Open to plunder', I had on my study table the Biological Diversity Book, 2000, too. I am convinced that the provisions of the proposed bill do not meet the challenges faced by the herbal and medicinal plant species in India today. There have been a lot of irregularities with the implementation of the Indian Forest Act (ifa), 1971. But for this, it is the officials in charge of implementation that are to be blamed. There is nothing wrong with the Act per se .
I still hope that defining'biodiversity' to fit in as 'forest produce' whether found in or outside forests, would meet the desired biodiversity conservation. Forest produce is subject to discipline as detailed in the ifa , including 'transit' control by revenue, police and forest departments. The rules could be further modified by each state....

Sound decision

The decision to introduce dte in St Paul's School, Bokaro, has been a wise one as we are now in touch with the latest news concerning the environment. The articles are qualitative as well as informative. We strongly feel that in the present times of ecological degradation, schoolchildren should have access to dte to create awareness and devise methods to keep the environment healthy....

Brain drain

This is with reference to 'Science is a political orphan' (Down To Earth , Vol 9, No 19; February 28). I agree with the sentiments expressed by Anil Agarwal. After independence, scientists and engineers have been forced to play second fiddle. That is why the cream of Indian Institute of Technology graduates chooses to go to other countries to pursue their profession. As long as this attitude remains, our country's talents will continue to be useful only to other countries, where they are indeed respected....

Power corrupts

With reference to 'Science is a political orphan', I fully agree with the high-handedness of bureaucrats, who just because of passing high profile examinations, become 'experts' on everything. But perhaps you are not aware of academicians who become more dangerous than Indian Administrative Service officers when they get administrative status, not outside but within the universities or research institutions. They not only harm their own juniors by taking away all the credit of the work done, but also perpetuate discipline-wise casteism. The result can easily be understood from the type and quality of research work being done in India....

Checking pollution

The article, 'Pay if you pollute' (Down To Earth , Vol 9, No 17; January 31) is relevant in the present day context. Though the action may be 'kind cruelty of the surgeon's steel', it should be welcomed. If such steps are initiated in India, it will definitely give a fillip towards abating pollution from automobiles and accelerate refineries for producing cleaner fuels....

Overcrowded zoo

I recently visited the zoological park in Delhi. Some of the deer enclosures are overcrowded. In one enclosure, there were as many as 45 animals. It would be a better idea to instead release most of these animals in wildlife parks and leave only a few pairs in the zoo. Also, enclosures must have bushes and well-laid grass patches. But in the Delhi zoo, the land is barren and full of rough surfaces....

Errata

In the article 'Genes, environment and mutation' ( Down To Earth , Vol 9, No 20; March 15), the illustration on page 30 was published incorrectly. The base pairing should have been shown between a and t bases with two hydrogen bonds, and g and c bases with three hydrogen bonds between them.
The error is regretted....

Fitting comparison

Perhaps it was appropriate that numerous politicians and bureaucrats attended Stephen Hawking's lecture in New Delhi ('A brief mania called Hawkins' Down To Earth , Vol 9, No 20; March 15). After all, the typical ministry or government department conforms perfectly well to the definition of black hole -- a super dense entity from whose clutches nothing, not even light, can escape and from which it is virtually impossible to extract any information....

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